With a mass-communications surveillance scheme imposed by Attorney-General George Brandis, a copyright firm securing court support to obtain Internet Service Provider customer information, and a new bill to force ISPs to block websites the copyright lobby doesn’t like, there has never been a better time for Australians to embrace online anonymity and encryption tools to hide their personal online lives from spying.

New polling from Essential Research shows that that is exactly what we’re doing. Sixteen per cent of Australians have used a VPN or Tor (the anonymising routing system), according to today’s Essential Report.

However, usage varies widely, with almost twice as many men as women using VPNs/Tor, and men being more likely to use anonymising methods like unidentifiable email addresses (you might extrapolate from that about online behaviour such as trolling and pornography, but there’s no evidentiary basis for it). Women are, however, more likely to delete something they’ve put online in the past (if they can). People under 35, who are “digital natives”, are far more likely to use anonymising methods, with more than a fifth of them using VPNs or Tor.

The polling comes as foreign VPNs continue to report skyrocketing rates of VPN usage by Australians. Hong Kong provider PureVPN told Crikey it had recently seen a 400% increase in Australian traffic and a similar rise in queries from potential Australian customers, and a 32% rise in the reactivation of old Australian accounts; Panama-based NordVPN also reported a “significant increase” in traffic from Australia and queries from Australians.

Expect that increase to continue as politicians, bureaucrats and multinationals continue to try to spy on Australians.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey